Every year, the Philly Bike Show has presented an extensive series of seminars on a variety of topics germane to bicycles and the cycling lifestyle. For its tenth anniversary edition, this year’s PBE is serving up perhaps its most compelling offering of seminars.
There are so many of them that it’s impossible for our small media staff to cover each one. Many of the ones we haven’t summarized in this report were captured in video files, and we’ll post those full videos, or clips from them, in the coming days.
James Madison University Professor of Sociology Ben Brewer presented his preliminary findings from a survey and study of the U.S. independent framebuilder scene that he’s been working on for a number of years. While the study has revealed some hard truths (it’s still a hard way to make a living and the number of business failures exceeds the number of runaway successes), the bright spots include a large number of people still willing to enter the trade, and a few high revenue builders outperforming those with equivalent product quality. Brewer postulated that this might indicate that special training in marketing and other business aspects of the trade available to more independent builders may help lift the fortunes of talented builders still struggling with profitability. Brewer plans to publish his study of the industry and is working on a history of the U.S. custom framebuilding business.
Former elite-level U.S. cyclist Bill Humphries related a very entertaining story about the Raleigh-sponsored U.S. team that entered the 1973 Tour of Ireland, and which featured Humphries and U.S. legends John Howard and John Allis, among others. Raleigh produced a video of the race, complete with commentary by a young Phil Liggett (waxing poetic about the “fresh chippings on the road”) and a cheesy 1970s synthesized music soundtrack (Humphries used to prank call Howard in the wee hours and play the soundtrack). A recent reunion of the cyclists in the race saw Humphries, Howard and many others reenacting pivotal moments.
Author and translator JT Hine presented a seminar on working from the road, and specifically while travelling by bicycle, as a “digital nomad.” Hine has worked as an Italian translator while riding his bike through Europe and the U.S. He provided some practical tips on how to navigate bureaucratic red tape (like obtaining 6 month tourist visas instead of 3 month ones) and technology recommendations (such as finding a laptop computer that properly fits in panniers). Hine is releasing his first novel, Emily and Hilda, which features a racing phenom and her friend on their own bicycle journey. Read more at www.jthine.com.
One of the most widely attended seminars featured four legends of the bicycle business: Chris Chance, Tom Ritchey, Mark Nobilette and Richard Schwinn. They spoke about the explosion of the U.S. framebuilding scene during the bike boom of the early 1970s. Schwinn related some little known facts, like the popularity of U.S. six-day racing in the 1930s (Six-day stars were paid more than baseball legends like Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig) and its subsequent collapse during and after World War II. During the 1970s bike boom, there wasn’t enough domestic production of bicycles to meet demand, and so European builders like Whitcomb from the U.K. and Masi of Italy established frame shops in the U.S. that trained many of the legends at the table who went on to create a thriving U.S. bicycle business marketplace.
We’ll present a similar synopsis of Sunday’s seminars. Stay tuned!